Paul Westerberg’s solo debut took three years to emerge after The Replacements’ demise. It’s more aggressive than the sleepy All Shook Down and rawer than the polished Don’t Tell A Soul, but it’s mainstream by 1993 standards, and it’s the album that could have broken him into mass popularity in the wake of Nirvana and Pearl Jam, groups that The Replacements paved the way for. Like in The Replacements’ best work, Westerberg is able to deliver both sensitive ballads and bratty rockers, and although the gap between the two is less pronounced than before, there are at least five or six stunners here that make 14 Songs essential for Replacements’ fans.
Like a lot of albums from its era, 14 Songs is too long, and could have used a trim. Leading the charge is the vitriol of ‘World Class Fad’, while the pair of riff-rockers, ‘A Few Minutes Of Silence’ and ‘Someone I Once Knew’ help fill the quota of charming filler. The heart of the album lies in sensitive pieces like ‘First Glimmer’, where a bass run leads into an exquisite middle eight, and the melancholy of ‘Dice Behind Your Shades’ and ‘Runaway Wind’.
14 Songs is a strong entry in the Westerberg canon; moments like ‘World Class Fad’ and ‘First Glimmer’ rank among his best songs, and it’s hard to imagine any Replacements fan not enjoying it.